(Source: LOSING IT Newsday)

By Bev Bennett

TASTING FOOD as you cook may seem as natural as breath­ing. But during the holidays when you're turning out sau­sage stuffing, rich sauces and cookies by the dozen, you may be un­consciously sabotaging your diet.


It's so easy to fall into the tasting trap. You're mixing chocolate chips into the cookie dough and you sample a few - well, maybe it adds up to a couple of tablespoons. That's 120 calo­ries. You want to sample a cookie from the first batch, in case you need to make adjustments. That's another 120 calories.


And sweets aren't the only problem. Maybe you're making gravy. You taste it before you season, and afterward, even though you've made the same rec­ipe 20 times. You're getting 50 to 100 calories.


Keep this up for a month and you can easily put on a pound or two.


If you know random nibbling is your downfall, plan strategies to avoid it, say the experts.


"You need to be mentally and physi­cally prepared to maintain your weight this time of the year," said Peggy O'Shea, a registered dietitian in private practice in Boston.


Although fitting in exercise may seem impossible when you're in a holi­day time crunch, it's essential, accord­ing to the dietitian.


"Exercise keeps your metabolism up and increases your muscle mass, so if you do take in a few extra calories, it won't be as detrimental," said O'Shea.


Getting more physical activity may be as simple as jogging in place, which one of O'Shea's clients does. Or it may mean walking instead of driving to the store to pick up a couple of ingredi­ents.


Being "mentally prepared" can mean everything from keeping a food diary to having a meal before you cook.

Here are suggestions dietitians give their patients. Some may work for you as well.

*      Don't cook when you're hungry. If you've skipped breakfast to start cook­ing, you're bound to sample your way through a recipe. If you can't restrain yourself, promise you'll only take one taste at the end of preparation.


*      Set out acceptable snacks for your work station. When you're making a cake or cookies, add a platter of carrot and celery sticks and a large. glass of water or noncaloric beverage.  "If you're going to munch, eat the car­rot stick and not a spoonful of cookie dough," said Netty Levine, a regis­tered dietitian with the Nutrition Counseling Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  "Before taking a bite from a cookie, have a bite of a vegetable. You're dilut­ing what [highly caloric] foods you're eating with low-fat foods. Drink plenty of fluids as you cook. That fills you up so you're less likely to eat high-calorie ingredients," she said.


*      Create a physical barrier. "Chew gum while you cook so you don't nib­ble," O'Shea suggested. If not gum, try a low-calorie candy. Some dieters swear by cough drops.


*      Take a kitchen break. Put your cook­ies or cake in the oven; set a small timer and take it with you. Get on a treadmill or exercise bike while the cookies bake, Levine said.


*      Become more aware of what you're eating. Levine recommends keeping a diary. Write down every chocolate chip and every finger swipe at the bowl of whipped cream. If dieters are going to nosh, they should commit to do so in moderation, said O'Shea.  "If you're making chocolate chip cookies and you know you're going to nibble on the chips, plan ahead to eat 10 chips, and that's it," she said.


*      If you know you ate too much while you were cooking, eat less at dinner.  Have a larger portion of salad and skip the potatoes and gravy, said O'Shea.


During this time of the year when you're planning indulgent foods for ev­eryone else, you may feel especially de­prived. Treat yourself to a satisfying breakfast of French toast with sautéed apple slices before you start cooking for others.



French Toast With Sautéed Apple Slices


½ cup fat-free milk

½ cup fat-free egg substitute

1/8 teaspoon salt

Butter-flavored cooking spray

8 slices light golden wheat bread (see note)

2 apples, cored, seeded and thinly sliced,  unpeeled

½ cup apple juice concentrate

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon




1. In a bowl stir together milk, egg substitute and salt.



2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with butter-flavored spray.



3. Dip bread slices in milk mixture to thoroughly coat both sides. Add to skillet and cook over medium heat, 3 minutes per side, or until browned.



4. Remove to platter. Add apples, apple juice concentrate and cinnamon to skillet. Over medium heat, sauté 5 minutes, or until apples are tender and apple juice is syrupy. Spoon into bowl and serve on the side. Makes 4 servings.



Note: Light golden wheat bread con­tains 1/3 fewer calories than regular wheat bread, or 40 calories a slice. If unavailable, substitute regular whole ­wheat bread and add about 40 calories per serving.




Each serving has:

3 Points

206 calories, 1 g. fat, 8 g. protein; 45 g. carbohydrate; 1 mg. cholesterol; 275 mg. sodium and 5.5 g. dietary fiber.